There is still a lot of work to be done, but the Arena Task Force is asking Penticton city council to endorse some preliminary findings as a basis for future work by the committee.
Key among their early findings is that all four ice surfaces — Memorial, McLaren, the community rink and the main South Okanagan Events Centre ice — are heavily utilized and the city needs to maintain at least that many in order to continue providing existing services and programs. Penticton Minor Hockey Association has a presence at all four rinks, especially Memorial Arena but much of that is due to the Okanagan Hockey Group, which is a major user of every ice surface except McLaren.
OHG accounts for 35 per cent of all ice time, about 90 per cent of which is in non-prime hours. The hockey academy is expected to use $535,000 worth of ice time in 2017.
Responding to a question from Coun. Andre Martin, task force chair Stewart Ladyman said he wasn’t of the opinion council had pre-decided the fate of Memorial Arena.
“If I was, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” said Ladyman. “I wouldn’t waste my time.”
Ladyman added that he didn’t think members of the task force all had firm opinions on what should be done with Memorial.
Feedback gathered through engagement activities includes that many residents see the history of Memorial Arena as important and would like to better understand the options and investment required before any decision was made. Ladyman said opinions ranged from one young community member saying it had to be kept to others wanting to see a new rink.
Other concepts the task force wants the city to endorse include multi-purpose facilities that can be used year round, with regulation-size surfaces and ceiling heights, seating for up to 400 spectators and a desired location on the SOEC campus for sports tourism opportunities.
Stewart Ladyman, chair of the task force, said two of the existing arenas are not regulation size, and one doesn’t have regulation ceiling height.
“That creates issues if we want to bring in outside teams,” said Ladyman, referring to the sports tourism potential of Penticton’s arenas. New arenas, he continued, are being constructed to regulation sizes, with the ability to expand and accessibility features. They also have fewer spectator seats, noting the community rink has a 500-seat capacity, and Memorial has 2,000.
“Memorial has too many seats if you want to keep it. You’ve got SOEC if you need something big,” said Ladyman.
To that end, the task force recommends an arena feasibility study on options to build a new arena on the SOEC campus and to continue assessing Memorial and McLaren arenas, and create a more detailed analysis including cost estimates for keeping the buildings operating in the long and short term.
The task force is expected to present final options and recommendations to city council in June. Information about their work is available online at Shapeyourcitypenticton.ca/arenataskforce.According to the task force report, there have been 1600 visits to the site, 200 documents downloaded and just nine ideas submitted.